May 5, 2016 2:22:32 am
Over the last decade the temple town of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh has seen a gradual increase in the number of Indian tourists visiting the world heritage site. But the number of foreign visitors has been steadily declining from the peak registered a few years back.
In 2006, only 1.64 lakh Indian tourists visited these temples. But in 2015, the number rose to 2.79 lakh. On the other hand, the number of foreign tourists declined from 73,843 in 2006 to 65,034 in 2015. The best seasons in the recent past in terms of foreign tourists were 2011 and 2012, when nearly one lakh each year visited the small town of 30,000 people in Chhatarpur district.
Interestingly, Khajuraho, which depends solely on tourism and has star hotels and eateries specialising in foreign cuisines, is not celebrating the growing number of Indian tourists.
“We cater only to those who spend at least a night here as tourists, not those who travel from nearby places carrying their food and water and buy nothing,’’ said Anuj Shukla, a member of the Dharohar Guide Association, who recently hosted Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi.
Many cited poor air connectivity and bad press over harassment of foreign tourists as factors that have hit business.
“I am hosting Japanese tourists after a gap of six months,’’ said Raj Kishore Tiwari, a government-approved guide.
The town is serviced only by an Air India flight from Delhi via Varanasi on alternate days that earlier had Agra on its route. Locals insist the decision to drop Agra has cost Khajuraho dearly as several foreigners used to prefer it.
The town got a railway station a few years ago and an upgraded domestic airport was inaugurated in January. But the trains mainly bring Indian tourists.
Rajnagar MLA Kunwar Vikram Singh, whose constituency covers Khajuraho, said: “The embassies warn their respective tourists to travel at their own risk, and not to expect any support. Such advice deters potential tourists.”
Government-approved guides blame the unauthorised guides who, they say, pester foreigners the moment they arrive in the town and some even misbehave with young women. “They don’t even spare Indian tourists,’’ said guide Prateek Jain.
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